Corn leaves blew across the highway like snow on a day when the wind howled, and dark clouds rolled across the sky. We planned — if the sky cleared — to view the Christmas star, which involves the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn.
The two planets last came so close together 800 years ago. Some Christians believe — although it cannot be certain — that the planets guided the Wise Men to the stable where Christ was born. The sky did not clear, which frustrated Kathy and caused me to quip that we would catch it eight centuries down the road.
My best skygazing took place on an empty hayrack at the end of busy baling day. Bone-tired bodies admired the distant Big and Little Dippers, and Sagittarius.
The possibility that angels played amid the constellations seemed possible. Grandparents and others who came before us may have been among their number.
Grandpa was much more than the fella who rescued me from cow yard muck, a shoestring teacher of tying technique, and an instructor demonstrating how to pack a bushel basket full of silage. He taught the love of the land and the livestock not through word but deeds.
In the depths of the Great Depression and horrific drought, livestock were fed cow pumpkins and tree branch leaves. When his daughter and son-in-law struggled, he delivered a sow and six piglets, which grew and helped induce hope for better days to come.
Someday we will get to dance in the sky with them.
A farmer friend called the other day, asking if I would mind helping him unload three wagons filled with small square bales of cornstalks. A December of abnormally warm weather and no snow cover gave opportunity to make small bales, which are easier to handle when bedding his beef barn. The stalks were tough and would not fall when the trip rope was pulled full force by a single man. There was ample time to help because all I did was drive the tractor that pulled the barn rope back and forth.
The Oliver 880 was like the one I used to cultivate crops and grind feed with. A Oliver, be it a 880, 660 or 66, were good tractors despite those who slandered the make by saying Olivers were only good for the mechanics who were paid to repair them.
We yanked the trip rope together, and the bales landed with a thud in the hayloft, where a high school student stacked them.
The system was flawless until the last bales disappeared into the barn’s open mouth. In unison, we tugged on the trip rope with all our might and, when it broke, we crashed together onto the hard and cold ground. The hit had the force of an unexpected football tackle.
“Are you all right?’’ asked the farmer.
“I’m fine,’’ I said in reply. “Are you OK?’’
He was, and we laughed at how we ended up.
“You think it is trying to tell us something?”
Two humbled men who nonetheless appreciated that they had done something they had not done before and likely would never do again.
The high school kid came down from the loft. The farmer led him to the house to get his pay. He asked me to come along, too. I did not want payment. One does not need money to help a friend, the stirring up of memories and the past was payment enough. Besides, there are weeping willow branches that must be hauled away before spring comes.
Kathy showed me a photograph of closely aligned Jupiter and Saturn. We will catch it again sometime when we dance between the stars. Only that vantage point may prove the equal of watching the stars while laying a bone-tired body on an empty hayrack after a long day baling hay.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.